For a spell during the pandemic, NY State allowed restaurants to offer to-go cocktails to customers. That initiative was short-lived, but now Governor Kathy Hochul is proposing a law that would make it permanent.
Along with creating a tax credit for covid related purchases such as outdoor heating and seating, Hochul recently stated that the sale of to-go drinks is a critical revenue stream for restaurants during these lean times. If the measure goes through, customers would be able to legally purchase bottles of wine and to-go drinks at restaurants.
“It’s refreshing to have leadership that listens to the people,” said Cory Muscato, co-owner of The Beer Keep (a beer, wine, and cider bar), who would be able to sell bottles of wine to-go under the new law. “We already have licensing that allows us to sell beers-to-go. The law would allow the bar and restaurant industry to sell more items in general. We (The Beer Keep) don’t currently serve liquor on the premise, but the new law would allow restaurants and bars like Lucky Day, Jack Rabbit, and Breezy Burrito to sell mixed drinks to-go. We’ve all been asking for these types of permissions for a long time.”
If the law goes into effect, NY restaurants and bars would be allowed to sell wine and mixed drinks to-go. Polls showed that nearly 80 percent of New Yorkers favored the practice, according to the NYPost.
Hochul’s written and verbal proposal is a priority for her administration, which comes as a surprise to many, considering that Governor Cuomo was twiddling his thumbs on the issue. Now it’s in the hands of the legislators, since Hochul can’t use her magic wand and make an executive order (those days are now over – thanks, Cuomo). This is not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. There is going to be plenty of resistance, from groups such as retailer associations, who want to control where and how the booze is sold. But the good news is that for the first time there is a governor who is willing to go to battle for the bars and restaurants.
For decades, many of NY’s Blue Laws were considered out of date, including the Sunday drinking limitations that were in place on what was considered The Lord’s Day – a day of worship. Establishments serving alcohol have also been denied opening their doors due to their close proximity to schools and churches. Many of the updated mandates that we are seeing now are alterations to the State’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (ABC Law).
It has been a nightmare getting the laws updated. It actually took a pandemic, for some to take hold. And there’s still more work to be done. For example, NY alcohol producers (distillers and hard cidermakers) are lobbying in hopes that they will one day be able to ship their products directly to consumers. A provision was previously allowed thanks to Governor Cuomo wielding his emergency powers during the pandemic, but permanency is not part of Hochul’s new proposal. The NYS Distillers Guild (among others) is hoping to amend that. Stay tuned.
The pandemic has brought around some changes for the good, when it comes to easing dated restrictions for bars and restaurants. Reopen Buffalo allowed for more patio seating and outdoor heaters. Restrictions are becoming more lax, but that doesn’t mean that we can simply go around drinking in public… yet.